We’ve reported a lot here in the last year or so about the financial problems North Country schools are facing and how they’re dealing with them, and that story continued last night with a meeting between school board members and administrators from the Canton and Potsdam central school districts about the possibility of a merger between the two.
Your News Now reports that the attendees heard a presentation from Bruce Fraser, who works with school districts on merger studies. He said the process of merging two districts takes at least two years — both districts have to dissolve, and a new one formed. Ultimately, whether to merge is the decision of voters, not the school board.
Both districts have been hit very hard by state aid cuts and have been struggling financially, and the Watertown Daily Times reports Potsdam has been forced to cut about 40 staff and faculty members, and Canton 56. Aside from the potential economies that could come from running one district instead of two, the state offers incentives (YNN says more than $35 million over the next 15 years) to school districts that choose to merge.
About one in four merger votes has been successful historically, Fraser said, with two districts in the Mohawk Valley completing a merger now and two others in the Binghamton area getting ready to submit the required feasibility study to the New York State Department of Education. The Times says Fraser thinks more schools may seek to merge, given the decreasing availability of state aid. If this merger were to go forward, the new school could open in fall of 2015.